Pitfall!, Activision's classic platformer, isn't just one of the most successful releases of the Atari 2600, it's also one of the most iconic and revered games from the early 1980s.
The title was the top selling game for the console for an impressive 64 weeks, and is so fondly remembered that Activision co-founder and Pitfall! creator David Crane recently set out to fund its spiritual successor via Kickstarter. And at the 2011 Game Developers Conference, Crane took a moment to reflect on how his popular action title came to be.
During his classic postmortem, Crane explained that Pitfall! arose because he was growing weary of the types of games that were appearing on the Atari 2600. In the early '80s, the console boasted plenty of vehicular combat games, Pong-derivatives, and other simple titles, and Crane was looking to make something a bit more dynamic.
"I didn't want to make every game I did out of jets and airplanes and tanks and things. I really liked the idea of trying to get an animated character into a game... But every time I tried to figure out a game to make out of it, nothing came to mind," Crane said.
"So I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and I drew a little running man, looked at it, and said, 'Well, he's running, so let's give him a path to run on... let's put the path through a jungle... In literally 10 minutes, or 15 minutes max, I had the design document. That's it!"
With the simple design document in hand, Crane says it then took about 1,000 hours of programming to bring Pitfall! to life.
To learn more about the whole process, as well as the challenges Crane faced along the way, check out his full classic postmortem in the above video, courtesy of GDC Vault.
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